Taking the RI/Fla connection too far

Apparently the aquatic mammal world hasn’t heard that this is the time of year Rhode Islanders starting thinking about heading to Florida. Not vice versa.
A haplessly white, defenseless, and warm-water loving manatee is currently hanging out in local waters, warns the state Department of Environmental Management. Maybe it’s the clear chowda.
In any case, if it doesn’t head south soon, it could die of cold. Which would, or course, be truly sad. Thankfully the DEM is hell-bent on preventing such a tragedy crime. That’s why they have a Division of Law Enforcement to deal with the miscreant migrants. The full release:


PROVIDENCE – With the recent sightings of a Florida manatee in Rhode Island waters, the Department of Environmental Management is reminding the public to avoid contact with the animal so that it will leave the state’s waters and return south before water temperatures drop.
The manatee was last sighted Tuesday morning at Sakonnet Point, headed north, and was spotted in Point Judith Pond in South Kingstown last Friday and Saturday.  This is believed to be the same manatee that was initially sighted off Long Island Sound last week.
While it is unusual for Florida manatees to stray this far north, several have been seen in Rhode Island waters in recent years.  The numbers of manatees found outside of Florida during the summer months are gradually increasing.  Although most return to Florida as the weather cools the coastal waters, a number of these animals have been lost to cold stress or required rescuing.      
As DEM, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network receive reports of people feeding, watering, and touching the animal, it is important to remind the public that these actions are detrimental to the animal.  April Valliere, supervising marine biologist in DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife warns, “If the manatee does not get turned around and head south before the water temperatures fall, it will not survive. As long as people feed or water the manatee, it is less likely to leave.”
According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Florida manatees are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.  Providing wildlife with food and water is not only a violation of federal and state wildlife protection laws, but also creates significant problems for both the animals and for people.  This is particularly true for manatees, as they easily acclimate to handouts of food and fresh water.  These artificial attractants can result in the manatees being exposed to greater risks of injury or death due to boats, as the animal may view docks and boats as a location where food and water can be found and seek out both. For manatees outside of Florida this can also result in the animal remaining in an area well beyond the time it should start making its way back to Florida.
In areas where manatee sightings have been reported, boaters should slow down or even consider operating at idle speed through the area.  Wearing polarized sunglasses reduces glare and makes it easier to see the manatee snouts breaking the surface for a breath of air: you’ll see – and sometimes hear – them blow out accumulated water just before taking a breath.
The US Fish & Wildlife Service offers the following guidelines for interacting with manatees:
DO:  Report sightings to your local wildlife officials or marine law enforcement office.
DO:  Observe manatees from the surface of the water and at a distance.
DO:  Avoid excessive noise and splashing that could disturb bottom-resting manatees.  Manatees on the bottom are likely resting or feeding.
DO:  Use snorkel gear if you are in the water, and maintain your distance when watching manatees.
DO:  Operate boats at idle and slow speed in areas where manatees have been reported.
DO NOT:  Feed manatees or give them water.
DO NOT:  Ride, chase, poke or surround manatees.
DO NOT:  Separate a mother and calf or an individual from a group.
Reports of manatee sightings in Rhode Island waters should be directed to DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement at 222-3070. 

Good luck, oh wonderfully weird looking manatee. With any luck, I’ll see you down in the Keys.